In short, these changes will allow for increased flexibility to change uses of properties within town centres, without the need to apply for planning permission. As a starting point, shops, financial/professional services, cafes/restaurants, indoor sports/facilities, medical health facilities, creche/nurseries, office/business uses will all be within the same use class, meaning there is no planning permission required to change a unit from one to another. However, pubs, takeaways, cinemas, concert halls, bingo halls and dance halls now fall under separate sui-generis classes, which means they cannot be used for anything else without permission. The government has also added additional protection against the loss of learning, non-residential and community facilities, including museums, public halls and local shops.
Edward Dodson, Head of Retail Strategy at Cheffins comments:
“This is a radical change for the industry with the prospect of significant benefits to the marketability of all types of property but not least town centre shops and B1 industrial units which can now be used for a wide variety of uses without the need for planning consent. Doing away with lengthy change of use negotiations will help to get properties reopened faster whether they be shops, cafes or restaurants and hopefully this ought to help increase footfall in what have become ghostly city centres across the country.
However, these changes may end up having major implications on the future of town centre layouts. Previously local planning policies helped to ensure a healthy mix of different uses in any given parts of town centres, but now landlords will be the ones governing the makeup of any given area by the use of lease user clauses. This is fine where a single landlord might own a substantial part of a town centre, such as with the Cambridge colleges, and be able to ensure a wide variety of businesses; however, when it comes to individual or investment landlords, this could result in a ‘one size fits all’ issue where every High Street across the country appears to be exactly the same as large-scale retailers dominate all available units.
The new rules do also include some more restrictive clauses such as where restaurants seek consent to allow takeaways through the likes of Just East and Deliveroo. Change of use to and from pubs and takeaways have become more restrictive which hopefully means renewed longevity for local village pubs.
On the face of it, these proposals are major game changers and we eagerly await the detail behind the proposals before we can fully understand how this may affect the industry going forward.”